AVCAT celebrated 20 years of scholarships at a memorable evening at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney.
By Len Russell, CEO AVCAT
AVCAT Chair, Major General Bill Crews AO (Retd) hosted the evening and warmly welcomed dignitaries, AVCAT Scholars, their families and guests. In his opening address, Major General Crews spoke of the reward and privilege of his position as Chair of AVCAT saying, ‘ I can attest to the reward for all of our volunteers and staff in seeing young people give of their best to complete their courses and pursue their life goals.’ He went on to speak of the origins of AVCAT in 1985 as the Australian Vietnam War Veterans’ Trust and the visionary people who, ‘saw the value in devoting most of the Agent Orange compensation payment to Australia to the education of the children of veterans, rather than only to short-term support to veterans themselves. Those funds were exhausted some time ago, but the Department of Veterans Affairs and our valued sponsors and donors have continued to provide the support to maintain and enhance this program.’
We were privileged to have our Patron, His Excellency General the Honourable, David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) in attendance. His Excellency honoured AVCAT’s work over the last 20 years wishing AVCAT well for our work today and into the future as we support veteran families with the cost of tertiary education. His Excellency presented the Long Tan Bursary and Sponsored Scholarship certificates to our 2023 scholars, some of whom are just beginning their tertiary education journeys.
Ms Sonia Gregory, DVA Deputy Commissioner (actg), gave the DVA address. Ms Gregory spoke of the historical importance of the 1966 Battle of Long Tan and why the DVA bursaries are named in its honour.
This special evening allowed us to hear from two AVCAT Alumni guest speakers. Dr Matthew Grosse, a lecturer at UTS, spoke of the support AVCAT provided him as a young undergraduate student. ‘I was the first in my extended family to attend university. Being a first-generation university student, I often felt like a fish out of water, everything was new, and I didn’t know anyone who could guide me along the way. So being awarded an AVCAT scholarship during my first year at uni offered more than financial aid. It allowed me to believe I was making the right choice to pursue a degree.’
We then heard from Dr Samantha Spark, a veterinarian practising in rural Victoria. ‘I have chosen a career that I am so passionate about. I love being outside, even in the South Gippsland sideways rain and wind; working with farmers in my community to improve their production systems, performing surgery on alpacas, taking x-rays of turtles, hospitalising sick dogs and watching them wag their tails as they go home to their families, and working with a team of amazing, intelligent, generous people. AVCAT helped make this dream my reality.’
We know the journey through tertiary education to graduation is not always smooth. We also know that with AVCAT’s support, and the support of our sponsors, our scholars have the opportunity to stay the course and achieve their goals.
Congratulations to all our 2023 NSW and ACT Scholars.
Thank you to the Anzac Memorial and the RAN Clarinet Quartet for a special evening. Thank you to our sponsors, DVA, Ex-Service Organisations, and corporate and individual donors who enable AVCAT to manage a national scholarship program supporting more than 250 scholarships annually.
The Governor General presented the Long Tan Bursaries with the assistance of Ms Gwen Cherne, Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner, DVA. After which the Governor General then presented the Sponsored Scholarships with the assistance of:
Mr Bill Henderson, Director, Canary Technology Solutions
Mr Garry Brigden, Director, Chatswood RSL Club
Ms Julia Guy, Events and Corporate Relations Manager, Alkath Group
Mr Graham Boyd, CEO of Legacy Australia
Mr Phil Hurren, committee member of Newtown RSL Sub Branch
Mr Robert Grant, President, Nowra RSL Sub Branch
Mr Michael Whaites, Assistant General Secretary of NSW Nurses and Midwives Association
Mr David Nathan, Board Chair, RSL Australia
Mr John Szabo, CEO, TPI New South Wales
Ms Kylie Gordon, Membership Specialist, RSL & Services & Clubs Association NSW